Ethiopian Airlines plane crash: ‘No survivors’ among 157 on board

There are no survivors among 157 people on board an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 that crashed en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Ethiopia’s state broadcaster reported.

The 149 passengers and eight crew were of 33 nationalities, the country’s state broadcaster EBC reported on Sunday. Ethiopia’s prime minister offered condolences to victims’ families.

“We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in an accident today,” the airline said in a statement on Sunday.

“It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight,” according to the statement.

Earlier on Sunday, the airline said: “search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties”. The plane took off at 8:38am (06:38 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town about 60km southeast of Addis Ababa by road.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office tweeted it “would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”

“We are saddened by the news of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger aircraft that is reported to have crashed 6 minutes after takeoff en route to Kenya. My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenyatta said in Twitter.

Ethiopian Airlines said it would send staff to the accident scene to “do everything possible to assist the emergency services”.

It would also set up a passenger information center and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on the flight.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi airport, said an information and service desk had also been set up there.

“Thirty-three nationalities are confirmed to be on board. Some of them could have been Kenyans, diplomats perhaps coming for a very important UN conference here in Nairobi that is supposed to start tomorrow,” Soi reported.

“Relatives are here, waiting on any information they can get. The flight as supposed to land at Nairobi at 10:35am local time,” she added.

The Boeing 737-800MAX is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed last October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

The last major accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was a Boeing 737-800 that exploded after taking off from Lebanon in 2010, killing 83 passengers and seven crew.

Boeing Airplanes said on its Twitter account that it was aware of the reports about Sunday’s accident and was “closely monitoring the situation”.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi airport, said an “information and service desk has been set up for the relatives looking for information”.

“Some of them [passengers onboard] could have been Kenyans and diplomats perhaps coming for a very important UN conference here in Nairobi that’s supposed to start tomorrow,” she said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Malaga, Spain, aviation analyst Alex Macheras explained that the 737 MAX is the brand new updated version of the Boeing 737.

“The MAX is in service all around the world. Airlines such as the Ethiopian Airlines are using this aircraft, as it is the latest, the most fuel-efficient, short-range Boeing aircraft on the market.

“The aircraft that has been involved in the accident today is less than four months old. It was delivered to Ethiopia in mid-November, when it flew from the US, made a fuel stop in Ireland, and was delivered to Addis Ababa, which is the hub of Ethiopian Airlines,” he added.

Macheras said new aircraft “do have their hiccups” but that is not to say they are unsafe or more prone to being involved in accidents.

“There are certain advisories for lots of new aircrafts and that’s perfectly normal as they enter the market place,” he added.

The Boeing 737 MAX was initiated in response to Airbus’s A320 Neo. Both planes feature modifications to make the aircraft more fuel-efficient.

“It’s a very safe aircraft,” Macheras said, “but of course this accident will send jitters across the industry.”

Source: Al Jazeera